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Welles (who was also a director of film-noir classics, including “The Lady from Shanghai”) gave directors, including his venerable elders, a sense that anything was possible, even in Hollywood.
They are essentially psychological narratives with the action—however violent or fast-paced—less significant than faces, gestures, words—than the truth of the characters, this “third dimension” I discussed a short while ago.
The movies in question, Frank argued, aren’t procedurals or whodunits, they’re character studies and sociological investigations.
The important point is to note its recurrence and the diversity with which the trope is deployed.
‘Suffering In Rhythm’ is a meditation upon this trope and the range of potential meanings and affects it is invested with, both in classic noir narratives and in ‘modern’ noir narratives which, since the 1970s, have become far more self-conscious about such tropes and conventions.
There are two terrific film-noir series taking place in New York right now, one at Film Forum, “Femmes Noir,” the other, at the Museum of Modern Art, “Lady in the Dark: Crime Films from Columbia Pictures, 1932-1957.” But only the Film Forum series uses the word “noir,” and ’s avoidance of the term makes perfect sense. A Western is identifiable by people on horseback in the West; a musical involves singing and dancing; a war movie shows war.
Even the so-called women’s picture was a movie that featured women prominently.
Very often, the ‘haunting melody’ serves a metonymic function, one whereby a song is employed to allude to oppressive or repressed elements of a character’s past.
This particular function of the ‘haunting melody’ can be found in a film such as (Lang again, 1953), where it is used fleetingly but to intense effect.
But the film noir is historically determined by particular circumstances; that’s why latter-day attempts at film noir, or so-called neo-noirs, almost all feel like exercises in nostalgia.
(Otto Preminger, 1944), where David Raksin’s intoxicating theme-tune becomes a haunting melody for the audience, plunging us into the content of a dream, just as the film’s detective protagonist is deliriously immersed in the mystery of the title character.